The Rest of the Story

The Louisiana Purchase created all or part of 15 states. So just how are the other 14 celebrating our bicentennial?



Haven't had enough Louisiana Purchase in your life? A commissioned opera not enough for you? How about art exhibits left and right? Whole floors of sundry museums?

Then there is the reenactment to which George Bush and Jacques Chirac canceled each other out. 'Twasn't always so. For the 150th anniversary, President Dwight D. Eisenhower came to New Orleans to speak. For the Purchase centennial, back when men were men and world's fairs were world's fairs, President Theodore Roosevelt addressed the crowds at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1903.

Not that New Orleans was asleep at any switch. The American navy sent the cruisers Topeka, Yankee and Minneapolis here and they were joined in the Mississippi by the French cruiser Jurien de la Graviere off the Poydras wharf. Alcee Fortier, president of the Louisiana Historical Society, played a key role in festivities, as did Sen. Murphy Foster (grandfather of our governor) and M. Jean J. Jusserand, French ambassador to America. The performance chosen for the gala at the French Opera House was Bizet's Carmen, and there was some satisfaction that it was a French production set in Spain and staged in the United States, encompassing all three Purchase participants.

This week, the local fetes and festivities connected to the Louisiana Purchase crescendo in New Orleans. But there were 14 other states carved out of the Louisiana Purchase. So what events do they have planned around the 200th anniversary of the largest political real-estate deal in history?


Admitted to Union in 1836. Davy Crockett said, "If I could rest anywhere, it would be Arkansas, where the men are of the real half-horse, half-alligator breed." Some who grew up there include Glen Campbell (Delight), Dizzy Dean (Lucas), Eldridge Cleaver (Wabbaseka) and Maya Angelou (Stamps). Other Arkansans have become kings: Bill Clinton and Sam M. Walton. In 1881, the state Legislature passed a bill declaring that the name of the state should be pronounced "with the final 's' silent ... and the accent on the first and last syllables."

No phone messages were returned. However, sources close to the investigation reveal the state is hosting at least one Louisiana Purchase-related event: a symposium on flintknapping, whatever that is.


LaSalle wrote "Aiounonea," Lewis and Clark wrote "Iaway." (Lewis and Clark's journals contain 900,000 words, of which some 197,425 were misspelled.) Lt. Zebulon Pike was the first to write "Iowa." The Sioux word was "Ayu-Hba," translated as "The Sleepy Ones" and does not refer to the state's early presidential primary. Admitted to the Union on Dec. 28, 1846. Once provided 20 percent of the nation's buttons, manufacturing pearl buttons from the shells of freshwater mussels found along the Mississippi and other rivers.

No specific Louisiana Purchase events, but there are 13 Lewis and Clark-related events, including the "White Catfish Encampment" in Council Bluffs and the "Sergeant Floyd Burial Reenactment" in Sioux City.


Statehood came in 1858. The name means "Cloudy Water." Called "The Gopher State," which is like calling Louisiana "The Nutria State." Recent governor was Jesse Ventura, who once said, "I know voting is a hard sell. What do you think kids would rather do, go to Ozzfest or vote?"

There will be no Louisiana Purchase events, though a film about Lewis and Clark will screen at the Science Museum in St. Paul. "There will be a 'Grand Excursion,' commemorating the 1850s exploration of the Mississippi River," says Chuck Lennon of the state tourism department. This will feature a Mississippi River flotilla stopping in communities along the waterway, culminating in a July 4 docking at St. Paul during the Taste of Minnesota Festival. "That's when the city is going to try to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest balloon arch, over the river," Lennon says.


Two French-Canadian coureurs de bois named the Mallet brothers were exploring the Mississippi Valley. American Indians directed them to a river they called Ni-bthaska, meaning "river spread out flat." On March 1, 1867, it became the 37th state. Had a great many college football teams. "The Cornhusker State." Kool-Aid invented here.

"No, we're not doing anything for the Purchase," says Mary Ethel Emanuel of the state tourism association. "There are many Lewis and Clark events in August -- the primary event will be Nebraska's signature event, to coincide with the exact 200th anniversary of when Lewis and Clark had their first encounter with Native Americans in Nebraska." Emanuel is adamant that the explorers first encountered American Indians in Nebraska, not Iowa. This apparently is quite an ideological debate in the upper Midwest, much like the Mensheviks versus the Bolsheviks in 1917 Petrograd. Also, event planners were careful not to call their events "celebrations," because many Native Americans don't regard this period of history as cause for celebration.


It was President Jefferson's idea that the vacant lands of the Louisiana Purchase be set aside for the American Indians; in Oklahoma, this was actually done. Soon after the Purchase, the "five civilized tribes" of the Southeast (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole) were moved here, bringing their sacred fires and many of their names. The Choctaw name for "home of the redman" -- "Okla-Homa" -- caught on. It started being the home of the white man after oil was discovered under its sand. In the "land rush" of 1889, Oklahoma City acquired 10,000 new citizens overnight. Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the last of the Louisiana Purchase states to be admitted to the Union.

There are no Louisiana Purchase events listed on the state tourism Web site. There's a Lewis and Clark Concert at the Bartlesville Community Center.


Admitted as the 41st state on Nov. 8, 1889. Knowing well on which side their political bread was buttered, Lewis and Clark named five Montana rivers for the president and his cabinet: Jefferson, Smith, Dearborn, Madison, and Gallatin. Knowing too that man does not live by patronage alone, the Judith was named for Clark's wife and the Martha for Lewis' gal -- though it was later renamed the Big Muddy.

There are no Louisiana Purchase events, but plenty of Lewis and Clark memorials in places such as Big Timber, Malta, Bozeman, Great Falls, Loma and Lolo. "We're letting you in Louisiana celebrate the Purchase, then send folks up here to commemorate Lewis and Clark," says Victor Bjornberg of Travel Montana. "We're focusing on the results of the Louisiana Purchase. No one here is really talking about the purchase itself."


Gen. James Wilkerson, governor of all the Louisiana Territory except Louisiana, wanted to find the southwestern boundaries of the Purchase. (Perhaps in the service of Spain, for whom he was a paid secret agent.) He sent out Lt. Zebulon Pike and 15 men, who took five months to go from St. Louis to Colorado. On the Arkansas River, he wrote, "15 U.S. soldiers cut down 14 logs and put up a breastwork 5 feet high on 3 sides." This fortification became Pueblo. On Thanksgiving 1806, Pike tried to climb the peak that today bears his name. He failed, and reported that the feat was "an impossibility." Later, the party was "captured" by the Spaniards, who showed them every kindness, gave dances for them nightly and loaned Pike $1,000. The place where Hunter Thompson lives and Sonny Bono died, Colorado became a state on Aug. 1, 1876.

"We don't have any Louisiana Purchase activities that I'm aware of," says Stephanie Dalgar of Colorado's Office of Economic Development.


In 1899, Congressman Willard Vandiver, growing tired of hearing another praise his own state, responded: "I come from a country that raises corn, cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I'm from Missouri, and you have got to show me." A nickname was born. Both Lewis and Clark were in turn governors of the Missouri Territory, but both were unpopular with settlers because of their sympathy for American Indians. It became a state after the Missouri Compromise of 1820, when Maine entered as a free state and Missouri as a slave state. It partially erased that stain by becoming the first state to free its slaves. Culturally, Missouri stands high. Natives T.S. Eliot, Tennessee Williams, Langston Hughes, Mark Twain and Yogi Berra have taken the English language in new directions. Scott Joplin, Chuck Berry, Jay McShann and Nelly demonstrate a sense of rhythm, while J.C. Penney, Adolphus Busch and the James brothers point the way to a certain financial shrewdness.

A representative of the Missouri Division of Tourism couldn't quite recall the name of a Louisiana Purchase event held earlier this year. "I believe it was a commemorative signing or something along those lines, but it wasn't of the magnitude of our Lewis and Clark events." But there will be a "Three Flags Festival" next March, dealing with both events.


Kansas and Wyoming didn't get back to us. Neither did New Mexico. South Dakota state tourism spokesman Lee Harstad says, "We have Lewis and Clark events going on -- nothing specific to the Louisiana Purchase." Texas state tourism employee Julie Welsh told us, "If there are any Louisiana Purchase events going on, nobody sent them to me." North Dakota, however, hosted a presentation by Dorothy Cook at the Knife River Indian Villages historic site. The title: "Louisiana Purchase: The Rest of the Story."

Additional reporting by Eileen Loh Harrist


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